Month: July 2024

“Rubbing My Head” (#Dyslexia #ADHD #Whatever)

This blog can occasionally serve as a bit of a confessional, providing me with  a forum to voice some concerns regarding the issues that emerge while working with struggling children and their parents.

So, with that in mind here’s a confession.

Sometimes I honestly don’t know when a child’s struggling, particularly in the four to seven-year range (Pk-1st) is related primarily to immaturity (i.e., they are not ready and need more time) or whether their struggling represents a legitimate disorder/disability.

(As I write this, I hear the chorus in the back of my mind calling out.)

“Well, Mr. Big Shot.  You’re the doctor.  That’s why we are coming in to see you – to tell us what it is.  What do you mean you are not sure if it’s immaturity or a disorder? Stop rubbing your head! What’s the matter with you???”

I try talking back to the chorus.

I tell  them things like, “It’s rarely  clear cut.  There is usually a ‘pie chart or ‘soup pot’ of variables interacting.’”

At that point the chorus gets louder.  They are almost screaming, “‘A soup pot of variables!!!!!’ What does that mean??? Does she have it or not?   Does she have dyslexia???  And what about ADHD?  She pays attention to nothing!!!!  Isn’t that ADHD?  And she seems awfully anxious.  Come on, man.  Get out of your soup pot.”

Relentlessly badgered by the chorus, I think of Marjorie, age 7, a child I recently evaluated who doesn’t read very well or stay on task without a lot of reminders.

Marjorie’s  teacher vaguely spoke to the mom about her not paying attention very well in school, with the implied suggestion that she might have ADHD, always with the caveat that “We are not doctors.  We don’t diagnose.”

After running Marjorie through a bunch of tests, I  had one overall impression.

Marjorie struck me as immature.

“Immature????,”  the chorus cries out.  “Are you kidding me?”

“Yes,” I push back against the chorus.  I tell them that Marjorie seemed more like a five-year old-rather than seven in her manner and way of interacting – that her preoccupations came across as a bit babyish.

The problem with that there is no test to quantify “babyish,” such as a “Maturity-Immaturity Scale.

It’s the same with the disorders, like dyslexia or ADHD.  Even though there are more objective tests involved in the assessment, there is no X-Ray or blood test to say,  “Yes, has it”  or “No, doesn’t have it.”  It’s still a weighing of variables that tilt the scales one way or the other.

Takeaway Point

I am sticking with the view that Marjorie needs time and perhaps some tutoring to help her mature and improve her skills.  We need to track and monitor her closely to see how she responds.

“Back down, chorus. I’m going back to rubbing my head.”

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,

“Take Your Breath Away #Dyslexia”

Even though I’ve probably evaluated a few thousand dyslexic kids in my career, it still takes my breath away when I meet those who are on the more significant to severe end of the spectrum.

This week my breath was taken away on back-to-back assessments.

Both children going into third grade, these two bright kids could barely read at the lowest end of the first grade.  Effectively, they were non-readers.

For them, the whole process of hacking through any text was beyond a painful and laborious experience.

Along with the usual Orton-Gillingham (Wilson, etc.) recommendations, a few things need to happen.

  • The parents need to understand and embrace the level of the disability. For the child, it’s literally like looking at a page of Greek letters and trying to make sense of it.  Put simply – IT’S TOO HARD!!!!
  • The school needs to stop waiting around.  The school needs to embrace the disability.  THE CHILD CAN’T READ (OR SPELL OR WRITE).  Giving the child worksheet after worksheet is overwhelming. IT’S TOO HARD!!!    If one can’t lift 20lb weights, what’s the point of having them lift more 20lb weights?

 I don’t care if you call what these children have as “dyslexia,” a “reading disability” or a “learning disability.”  To me, it is irrelevant.  All of these terms lead to the same place.

Once the school and the parents have embraced the disability, the school and parents need to fully embrace and utilize assistive technology as a way of helping the child around the disability.  If the child were blind and could not see the page, they would be embracing assistive technology.

The child needs to also get on board.

Here’s what I told, young Mason, one of the two children referenced above:

Mason.  You’re a smart kid.  You know how I know that?  I tested you.  Even though you’re smart, you have a reading problem that really gets in your way and makes you feel dumb.  Well, we’re going to start helping you get around that today.”  (Mason starts to perk up wondering what I’m selling.)

I continue.  “Mason, I know you love adventure and history and the outdoors and there are great kids’ books on all of that.  I’m going to challenge you to read a book a week – that’s 52 books in a year.  But, you’re going to read it this way (I point to my ears) in audiobook format.  Once you start to do that and really get into the rhythm of it, believe it or not you will start to learn to love reading and it will make you a whole lot smarter.

I suggested Mason start with the “I Survived” series, a great series that puts the reader in history, with titles such as, “I Survived the Titanic” or “I Survived the Galveston Flood.”

This little scenario represents getting the child (and mom) on board and fully embracing the dyslexia for what it is and how to get around it.

Takeaway Point

Dyslexia is real and debilitating.  We need to embrace it for these kids and get real with them to help them get around it.

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,



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